A wander through The Pinnacle Nature Reserve's early spring, 17 September 2011
Birds have been an inspiration, passion and study for John Brannan for many years. His interpretations and knowledge of this year’s nesting behaviour and avian presences allowed the morning walk to morph into a real learning experience for all of us.
Choughs are nesting deep in the Stringybark forest. They’ve refurbished their large, cup-shaped mud nest to accommodate this year’s chicks. The 7-8-strong colony of birds will raise the young communally. Cryptandra amara with its white, fragrant, bell-shaped flowers brought almost-bridal effects to the low-growing shrubs.
Deep in the Kama homestead’s paddock a remnant Eucalypt hosts a Goshawks’ nest hidden in the foliage. As if for our benefit the parent birds were perched on a horizontal branch allowing John to point out the larger female alongside her mate.
Eastern rosellas also perched long enough for good, closer sightings. How lucky that all those glorious colours are present on one of our commonest local species.
John turned the quest to find Frogmouths into an observational challenge. Even the male, incubating in a cavernous scar of The Dungowan Eucalypt, is hard to find. The female takes over nocturnal shift for the 30-day incubation period. Even harder to find was the pair nesting in the tree near the junction of the Kama and Hawker Paddocks. Noisy Friarbirds’ raucous calls have been noticed for 2-3 weeks. These migrants’ un-feathered black heads apparently remind some of friars or monks.
The flocks of oval- and nature-strip-feeding Galahs seem to have dispersed to nesting duties. Pairs, in laid-back flights, added to our species-count and the calls of Grey fantails and Golden whistlers were heard.
Hoveas have finished their flowering but their creeping habit is shared with Twining glycine. The purple of their flowers is subtler than the glorious Hardenbergia which seem to prefer edge-of-forest sunlight and harsh, rocky sites with good drainage.
Two other wildflowers currently gracing the forest are Indigofera australis and Indigofera adesmiifolia. Both have pink rather than purple flowers and are susceptible to grazing by ‘roos (and probably rabbits).
Just a few 100m into our walk we found a pair of Scarlet robins. They were co-operative for our lenses, their presence together suggesting that they are busy finding food for nestlings.
Two Kookaburras’ iconic calls reached us before their flights to a horizontal, bare branch allowed excellent views and stimulated discussion. The Kama property was a quintessential Australian rural backdrop to our walk with black Angus cattle currently present for crash-grazing fuel-reduction.
A lone pink bloom suggested Petrochilus fuscata and was our only ground-orchid sighting in spite of the renewed searching which followed the first find in the leaf-litter.
Urn heath, Melichrus urceolatus has cheered the wintry bush for months with pale-yellow bell-shaped flowers. We noticed some had prominent rust-coloured stamens. Maybe I’d overlooked this feature before.
Nestboxes are a two-year-old feature of some 15 units of Canberra Nature Park and other open space areas. They were built and installed by Kate Grarock as she researches the effects of the introduced Indian Myna on hollow-nesting native birds such as rosellas. Some boxes show that they have been used successively by rosellas, mynas and honeybees. Kate’s results will begin emerging in February 2012.
Overheard, the far-carrying calls of Ravens, Currawongs and Magpies contributed to the essence of the bush in fine, pre-summer weather.
Pardalotes nested in the bank of the southerly track last spring but we didn’t see any signs of coming-and-going. Both species’ calls reached our ears.
The intriguing part of bush-walks is that numerous questions are thrown up. Sometimes they can be answered or we note down topics for further investigation. Is it lack of time that dampens others’ curiosity or are they unlucky in being removed from those who could share answers and recall research? We questioned the presence of the Hawker Rainbow lorikeets and what the September influx of Superb parrots are doing. Are some nesting locally? Will anyone find the nest-hollows they’re using? That would be a coup.
Raptors bring majesty to the Lower Molonglo Valley. If only the powerful would realise Canberra’s uniqueness in having 13 raptor species within a few kilometres of the national capital’s CBD and leave all of this last, iconic valley to its natural inhabitants.
Sulphur crested cockatoos dizzied their cream silhouettes between us and the sky and against the rural and then Brindabellas back-drop. Stinking pennywort leaves were ubiquitous amongst grassy and woodland leaf-litter. Later, treading on them will release the sewage-like smell that gives them their un-glamorous name. Small birds such as Wrens, Red-browed finches and Diamond fire-tails enter our musings.
Thornbills attracted our attention, generating discussion and prompting answers from John based on many years of observations and local surveying. How often have we almost trodden on Yellow-rumped Thornbills as they cryptically check low grasses for insects?
By their similar heights Understorey shrubs such as Cassinia and Bursaria show evidence of Hazard Reduction Burns 2-3 years ago and that they ‘bounce back’ after such fires. If HRBs are too frequent the leaf-litter layer is detrimentally affected as its seed bank, insect larvae populations, worms, other invertebrate-recyclers and micro-organisms are destroyed.
Vulnerable to the ignorant greed of those who overturn and leave rocks displaced, the Pinnacle’s reptiles are (we assume) illegally-taken by those who’ll make a “quick-buck” from selling the hapless lizards and scorpions.
Weeds were a topic whenever invasive species from the farmland or along the track-edges were evident. Friends of The Pinnacle parkcarers have regular weeding sessions both in the grassy woodland areas and in the Stringybark forest. Session times can be found on our Calendar and the results of our efforts are documented on various pages under the weeds menu item..
Stiff bracts act as attractant petals surrounding the hundreds of flowers of Sticky everlasting, Xerochrysum viscosum. Last year’s blooms are mostly absent or desiccated but each plant has a mass of leafy growth at ground-level. There are numerous seedlings taking advantage of the still-damp-enough soil in the forest.
The unusual Yellow flowers of Knob Sedge and Lomandra caught our weeders’ attention a couple of weeks ago. The occasional Austral Bears-ear was flowering from rosettes heralding more yellow flowers from daisies, oxalis and trefoils as spring merges into summer.
Zero-tolerance for Mulleins is a Pinnacle mantra. Two Verbascum species germinate rampantly from minute brown seeds. One has felty grey-green leaves and the other’s smooth dark-green leaves resemble both the Wild sage and the native Austral bugle. All are present in the forest with the Mulleins being target species for the weeding groups.
Although this was a regular Pinnacle walk six members of the Field Naturalists Association also joined us. Caroline, Phyl, Wendy, John and I were delighted to welcome Maureen F., Leigh and Clive to our walking group as a result of their having read the walks notices in the Reserve. Thanks to you all for an enjoyable walk.